6th June 2018
EP Report


A high-level roundtable at the Vienna Energy Forum 2018 in Bonn, Germany noted the need to move away from project-based interventions to upscale opportunities for startups and entrepreneurs in developing countries. On policy support for promoting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and startups in developing countries, panelists emphasized the relevance of energy service companies, the need for working capital and the importance of a global approach to reducing barriers such as tariffs, among others.


The Vienna Energy Forum 2018 special session took place on May 14-16, 2018 in Vienna, Austria. Organized under the auspices of the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), Austrian Federal Ministry for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs (BMEIA), the Austrian Development Agency (ADA), the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) and Sustainable Energy for All (SEforALL), the Forum gathered over 430 leaders from governments, civil society, international organizations and the private sector.


The session breaks the bi-annual cycle of the Forum in order to provide input to the formal review of Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 7 (energy) by the High-Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development (HLPF) taking place in New York in July.


The Forum included plenaries and high-level round tables on May 14, followed by side events and special events on May 15 and 16.


Nisha Pillai, former BBC World News presenter, welcomed participants, stressing the importance of the theme of the special session “Powering Innovation for Prosperity.”


Li Yong, Director General, UNIDO, highlighted that the experiences and practices of the participants will be reflected in the meeting’s outcome document, which in turn will contribute to the formal review of SDG 7 by the HLPF in July.


Karin Kneissl, Federal Minister for Europe, Integration and Foreign Affairs, Austria, stressed the linkage between SDG 7 and the other SDGs and noted that Austria will host an event on regional energy centers in the fall of 2018.


Abdelrahman Ayman Ibrahim, Global President, International Association of Students in Economic and Commercial Sciences, stressed that young people can be a powerful growth engine for societies, particularly through technology.


Marie Chatardová, President, UN Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC), said a reliable and affordable energy supply is a prerequisite to achieving the SDGs, but that looking at current progress, the world is falling short of achieving SDG 7 by 2030. She urged participants to demonstrate leadership, form partnerships, and make SDG 7 and the 2030 Agenda a reality.


Liu Zhenmin, Under-Secretary-General, UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (DESA), said energy lies at the heart of both the Sustainable Development Agenda and the Paris Agreement, stressing the need to realize synergies and highlighting the importance of multi-stakeholder approaches.


Edu Willemse of GIZ chaired the plenary session, highlighting the emerging trends of decarbonization, digitalization and decentralization in energy systems. He asked panelists to address: why energy systems need to be transformed; why it is important for developing countries; the role of international organizations; and the role of technology.


Jeremy Rifkin, President, Foundation on Economic Trends, emphasized humanity challenges such as declining productivity gains, concentration of wealth and climate change; and stressed the need for a new paradigm and an off-carbon society by the next 35-40 years.


Rifkin said the third industrial revolution will be based on the confluence of new sources of energy, communication and new modes of transportation. He emphasized developing countries’ opportunity to transition quicker because they do not have as much lock-in from existing infrastructure as developed countries. Rifkin stressed the magnitude of fossil fuel stranded assets, and the role of sub-national governments in facilitating the energy transition.


Mohamed Ali Alhakim, Executive Secretary, UN Economic and Social Commission for Western Asia (ESCWA), highlighted four challenges for his region: upgrading infrastructure; financing the energy transition, particularly for fossil-fuel based economies; human resources; and weak private sector. Ali Alhakim also underscored the problems of water and food security, inequality and conflict.


Rachel Kyte, Chief Executive Officer, SEforALL, and Special Representative of the UN Secretary-General for SEforALL, noted the SEforALL meeting held in Lisbon earlier in the month. She said some countries are moving extremely fast on energy efficiency and energy access, emphasizing that the question is not how to do it, but how to get more countries to follow suit. Kyte stressed the adverse effects of fossil fuel subsidies for achieving SDG 7.


Providing recommendations for the Vienna Energy Forum’s contribution to the HLPF SDG 7 review, panelists highlighted enabling environments and regulatory frameworks, integrated solutions, and stakeholder informed top down energy efficiency regulations to cover the whole economy.


In a plenary session on “Climate and Clean Energy Technology and Innovation”, Harish Hande, Chairman, SELCO India, said that “we paintbrush the poor as poor” rather than designing energy systems that consider their needs. He called for centers of excellence to provide technology and finance innovations. Patricia Espinosa, Executive Secretary, UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), underscored the need to create innovation centers in communities to better adapt climate technologies to the local context.


Petteri Taalas, Secretary-General, World Meteorological Organization (WMO), stressed the need for distributed energy systems and energy security. Given the magnitude of the climate problem, Pavel Kabat, Director-General and CEO, IIASA, stressed opportunities for innovation and cross-sector collaboration.


Howard Bamsey, Executive Director, Green Climate Fund (GCF), highlighted the need for technical and financial innovation for climate action in the developing world, and underscored the importance of partners and collaboration. Tadej Slapnik, State Secretary, Slovenia, discussed the emergence of block chain technology entrepreneurs in Slovenia. He highlighted the importance of scaling up new business models for future distributed energy markets.


In another plenary on “Delivering Prosperity Through Partnerships”, Dirk Fransaer, Managing Director, Flemish Institute for Technological Research, highlighted that collaborations are essential to guarantee renewable energy at an affordable price for everyone.


Irene Giner-Reichl, President, Global Forum on Sustainable Energy, stressed the lack of gender balance at all levels in the energy sector. She noted that the slow progress on energy access and cooking fuels has tremendous impacts on women. Robert Zeiner, ADA, emphasized the crucial role regional initiatives and centers of excellence play in creating an enabling environment and reducing barriers for sustainable energy approaches.


André Faaij, University of Groningen, called for combinations of technologies and systems solutions for the full deployment of renewable energies that are implemented on the national, regional and local levels.


At a high-level roundtable moderated by Nisha Pillai, Tareq Emtairah, Director, Department of Energy, UNIDO, noted the need to move away from project-based interventions to upscale opportunities for startups and entrepreneurs in developing countries.


On policy support for promoting small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and startups in developing countries, panelists emphasized, among others: the relevance of energy service companies; the need for working capital; the importance of a global approach to reducing barriers such as tariffs; lessons from multilateral environmental agreements such as the Montreal Protocol; the establishment of international offices supporting integrated approaches for capacity building; the misalignment of national policies with local economic development opportunities; the importance of a systems-level approach to aligning policy objectives such as energy access and climate mitigation; and the importance of green technology certification schemes such as those in the Republic of Korea.


On reducing barriers for SMEs, the panelists discussed, among others: the need for a networked ecosystem of actors; the importance of accelerator programs; building competencies such as business skills; building customer-oriented products; the need to educate and engage communities; having access to “failure money;” measures to promote entrepreneurship amongst the poor; reducing barriers to SMEs operating globally; the relevance of enabling technology such as block chain technology; and the importance of de-risking and different models of financing.


On recommendations for UNIDO, panelists proposed, among others: interacting with large international companies so that product lines help solve poor peoples’ problems; supporting energy champions that talk to government departments as well as the public; engaging with sectors critical for local livelihoods such as agriculture in sub-Saharan Africa; moving away from a project-by-project approach towards a systems-level approach; building the financial capabilities of SMEs; enabling national agencies and sectors to access the GCF; making SME incubators more effective; and helping address the need for innovation hubs, green certification and a globally connected set of incubators and accelerators.


At another roundtable, Tareq Emtairah, Director, Department of Energy, UNIDO, noted 10 years of regional action, emphasizing that the rationale for sub-regional cooperation is that tackling some issues at the sub-regional level is more effective than at the national level. Ashraf Kraidy, Regional Center for Renewable Energy and Energy Efficiency said the SDG Agenda should recognize the role of regional centers. Mark Lister, Head, Copenhagen Centre on Energy Efficiency, emphasized the importance of regional centers in harmonizing energy efficiency standards in appliances and peer-to-peer learning.


Robert Zeiner, ADA, said the regional center model is successful, but needs to adapt to each regional context. Carlos Aragon Gil de la Serna, Spain, stressed the effectiveness of the model. Hans Olav Ibrekk, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Norway, emphasized the need for gender equity, including in the leadership of regional centers.


Igor Barat, International Investment Bank, said a regional approach can lower the risk of investments. He underscored his bank’s financing of nuclear reactors in Hungary as clean energy. Benedikt Hoskuldsson, SEforAll, underscored project preparation support.



Emerging Low-Carbon Energy Systems As A Catalyst For Industrial Transformation In Developing Countries:

Nisha Pillai moderated another high-level roundtable when participants addressed issues including: the need for energy efficiency and sufficiency; developing business models for companies to make money in decarbonized, digitized energy systems; the need to focus on decentralized areas and make investments in rural areas more attractive; bottom-up approaches; and the climate mitigation potential of energy efficiency versus energy decarbonization.


The discussants highlighted, among others: lack of institutional capacity; vested interests; energy planners’ lack of awareness of current renewable energy costs; the gap between pledges and disbursements; lack of absorptive capacity, both for project finance and capacity building; long project implementation timeframes; and patent laws. Participants also noted success factors from Morocco and Kenya’s experiences in attracting investment, including through stable frameworks, planning and regulation, and focus on value chains.


It was emphasized that while globally, the energy transition will bring great benefits, there will be losers at the national, local and company levels. Participants also underscored: different employment opportunities of focusing on different aspects of the value chain; the need to empower civil society; environmental awareness and the willingness to act of citizens in developing countries; governance at the local level; and affordability.


The discussants stressed, among others: promotion of distributed manufacturing; the multifaceted nature of industrial development; shifting of energy intensive industries from developed to middle income countries; and mal-development inertia, with multilateral development institutions still operating on the old unsustainable paradigm of industrial development.


They highlighted the importance of data, noting that, in addition to energy, mini-grids bring identity and data to investors by identifying people who can buy products and services including health and banking. Alternative sources of data in Africa such as phone and banking data were identified. Discussants also highlighted that the inclusion of SDG 7 and its three goals in the international agenda are a legacy of the Vienna Energy Forum.


At a high-level segment on “Powering Innovation for Prosperity”, Philippe Scholtès, Managing Director, Programme Development and Technical Cooperation, UNIDO, stressed the importance of an environment conducive for private sector investment.


Abdul Hussain bin Ali Mirza, Minister of Electricity and Water Affairs, Bahrain, described the challenges Bahrain faces as a small island with limited natural resources and the creation of a government think tank to encourage investment in renewable energy. He emphasized Bahrain’s Vision 2030, which seeks to facilitate private sector investment in renewable energy.


Waldemar Lagoda, Ministry of Energy, Poland, noted that 80 percent of his country’s electricity is produced from coal. He underscored Poland’s decarbonization plans, including offshore wind farms, nuclear energy, cogeneration, and electro mobility. Lagoda stressed the importance of energy efficiency in Poland, noting efforts to implement LED lighting and grid modernization.


In the closing session, Minoru Takada, DESA, explained the planned process for the formal review of SDG 7 by the HLPF in July. Takada emphasized the importance of the global and regional gatherings supporting the SDG 7 review. He highlighted the policy briefs in support of the SDG 7 review, which he noted involved more than 70 organizations, as well as the document “Tracking SDG 7: the Energy Progress Report 2018,” jointly produced by IRENA, the International Energy Agency, UN Statistics, World Bank, and WMO.


Emtairah noted some of the day’s highlights, emphasizing energy transition, and transformation of energy markets from energy supply to energy services. He underscored the additional opportunities offered by regional approaches to energy and noted that the energy transformation is also an opportunity for a broader industrial transformation in developing countries. Thanking Vienna Energy Forum partners, participants and staff, he closed the Special Session of the Forum.


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